Six French academies dismiss study linking GM corn to cancer (Update 2)

Oct 19, 2012
A controversial study that linked genetically modified corn to cancer in lab rats is a "scientific non-event," six French scientific academies said.

A controversial study that linked genetically modified corn to cancer in lab rats is a "scientific non-event," six French scientific academies said on Friday.

"This work does not enable any reliable conclusion to be drawn," they said, adding bluntly that the affair helped "spread fear among the public."

The joint statement—an extremely rare event in French science—was signed by the national academies of agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, sciences, technology and veterinary studies.

It was sparked by research published in September that said rats fed with so-called NK603 corn and/or doses of Roundup herbicide developed tumours.

The paper, led by Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen, unleashed a storm in Europe, where GM crops are a highly sensitive issue.

Critics accused Seralini of manipulating the media to boost the impact of his findings, branded his experiments as shoddy or fraught with gaps or bias.

Two fast-track official investigations into the study, ordered by the government, are due to be unveiled on Monday.

The academies' statement said:

"Given the numerous gaps in methods and interpretation, the data presented in this article cannot challenge previous studies which have concluded that NK603 corn is harmless from the health point of view, as are, more generally, genetically modified plants that have been authorised for consumption by animals and humans."

In withering terms, it dismissed the study as "a scientific non-event."

"Hyping the reputation of a scientist or a team is a serious misdemeanour when it helps to spread fear among the public that is not based on any firm conclusion," the academies said.

NK603 is a corn, also called maize, made by US agribusiness giant Monsanto.

Genetically modified corn cobs are seen at a corn field, west of Cairo, 2008. A controversial study that linked genetically modified corn to cancer in lab rats is a "scientific non-event," six French scientific academies said.

It has been engineered to make it resistant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup.

This enables farmers to douse fields with the weedkiller in a single go, thus offering substantial savings.

The study was published on September 19 in a peer-reviewed specialist journal called Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Seralini is a well-known opponent of GM crops, and his research was funded in part by an alliance comprising anti-GM campaigners and supermarket chains that have invested heavily in organic food.

Funding for scientific research by a partisan group or commercial interest is not at all unusual.

To avoid any bias, the results are supposed to be scrutinised by independent scientists—the peer review—before they are published.

But the academies said that, in this particular case, peer review had failed.

The study claimed to be the first to look at rats and GM crops over the rodents' normal lifespan of two years, as opposed to the standard 90 days. Two hundred male and female rats were split into 10 groups of 10 animals.

One was a "control" group which was given ordinary rat food that contained 33 percent non-GM corn, and plain water.

Three groups were given ordinary rat food and water with increasing doses of Roundup, reflecting various concentrations of the herbicide in the food chain.

The other six were fed rat food of which 11, 22 or 33 percent comprised NK603 corn, either treated or not with Roundup when the corn was grown.

The researchers said they found that NK603 and Roundup both caused similar damage to the rats' health, whether they were consumed together or on their own.

"For the first time ever, a GM organism and a herbicide have been evaluated for their long-term impact on health, and more thoroughly than by governments or the industry," Seralini told AFP on September 19. "The results are alarming."

But the six academies said "conventional statistical analysis... showed no significant difference between the (rat) groups... in contrary to the wording used by the authors of the article for the public."

Official watchdogs in Germany and in Australia and New Zealand, as well as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have also cast doubt on the paper's conclusions.

Seralini declined to comment on the academies' statement.

Elsevier said the journal would shortly publish criticisms that other scientists had made of the study, as well as a response by Seralini.

"If we conclude that changes need to be made to the peer review process, that will be communicated openly to readers of the journal," it said.

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User comments : 24

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christ_jan
2.2 / 5 (13) Oct 19, 2012
In other news, the french jewish unions impose censorship on twitter and google.
BikeToAustralia
5 / 5 (5) Oct 19, 2012
"Critics accused Seralini of manipulating the media to boost the impact of his findings, branded his experiments as shoddy or fraught with gaps or bias."

OK, is an unbiased, accurate, long term, quality study possible or already available?
cantdrive85
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 19, 2012
"Critics accused Seralini of manipulating the media to boost the impact of his findings, branded his experiments as shoddy or fraught with gaps or bias."

OK, is an unbiased, accurate, long term, quality study possible or already available?

No
cantdrive85
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 19, 2012
I have a speculation. This story will find a tremendous amount of media coverage, while at the same time, the "scientific non-event" study that was produced by Stanford recently claiming no benefit of organic over conventional will quietly and quickly fade from attention. I seriously doubt that a consortium of academic orgs is going to sign a joint statement condemning such a flawed "study".

http://opinionato...d-study/
Parsec
4 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2012
In other news, the french jewish unions impose censorship on twitter and google.

It is quite easy to construct a study that sounds good to non-scientists but is complete garbage from a statistical and scientific standpoint. For example, if the margin of error is greater than any possible conclusions drawn due to small sample sizes, you can say that the study is meaningless in terms of any conclusions that were drawn from it.

The study quoted suffered from obvious problems, cherry picked data, and was clearly biased. It is of course possible to design a study from which unbiased conclusions can be drawn.
Sanescience
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2012
The use of genetics in both ideological and political/trade power struggles is only going to grow. Its just a new spin on the same old game played between trading nations. "Your product can undercut our product, so were going to use disinformation to undercut demand for your product." If people were actually concerned for their health there are a hundred "easy" things one can do to make a much bigger difference than worrying about GMO crops. Try asking a addict what they think about the safety of their favorite "crop".
christ_jan
5 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2012
The use of genetics in both ideological and political/trade power struggles is only going to grow. Its just a new spin on the same old game played between trading nations. "Your product can undercut our product, so were going to use disinformation to undercut demand for your product."


No, corporations like Monsanto don't have a country and are _international_, in my country alone they have 5 locations.
kochevnik
2 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2012
US food mostly tastes like crap and Americans are acquiring strange illnesses and deformed shapes. That's enough to know.
ValeriaT
5 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2012
Six French academies dismiss study linking GM corn to cancer

"If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!" --Albert Einstein, commenting on the book 100 Authors Against Einstein

So, what the laymans should think about it? Here is the one clue: all studies dealing with biological tests of GMO didn't take a longer time, than 200 days. But Seralini's study took whole three years! While it's evident, that the mutagenic effects have no chance to manifest itself during short-term study, the studies done with Monsanto were never longer than some three months.
christ_jan
4 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2012
What about the studies that proved BT-toxin to reside in a pregnants womans bloodstream and her child as well? Is that healthy?!
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2012
The similar argumentation flaw exists at the case of cold fusion refusal, because no one of its opponents did introduce the same effort into experimental evidence like the proponents of cold fusion. Actually, at the case of cold fusion at nickel we have no alternative study during last twenty years. An apparent violation of scientific method happens there: it doesn't matter, how smart you are, the experimental finding can be disproved just with another experimental finding, not with void twaddling.

The GMO are inherently dangerous because of the imperfect state of genetic modifications, which can be never quite unambiguous with compare to chemical reactions in the lab. The GMO maize produces not only single Bt-toxin, but a whole mixture of similar proteins, some of them affect even the Hymenoptera (whereas the original Bt-toxin is Lepidoptera specific). During modification of genome the metabolic pathways are modified in the way, even the harmless plant can produce unknown yet toxins
ValeriaT
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2012
Another risk comes from virus vectors used for implantation of genomes into GMO. These viruses are carcinogenic by itself (they're used just because they can affect the genome). These viruses can leave their RNA fragments into host cells, which can express into mutagen proteins. We know about many examples of such horizontal gene transfer, which enable the spreading of genetic sequences GMO in the wild. It leads to the spreading of superbugs and superweeds and it may lead to the spreading of the carcinogenicity of viruses used in their production as well. The GMO is simply unpredictable and dirty technology, because it employs very complex and adaptive metabolic pathways of living cells, where nearly everything is possible.
ValeriaT
3 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2012
Whereas the producers of GMO are perfectly sure, their products are safe, the animals do favor the natural plants, when given such a possibility. the contemporary genetic manipulations aren't well defined chemical reactions, which you may expect from school lab experiments. They usually produce metabolic mess and mixture of proteins, many of them are unknown in the nature. The animals may recognize some of them by their smell and taste, but people aren't so sensitive about it. It's evident, our confidence about safety of GMO is based just on the insufficient sensitivity of our technologies. I'm afraid, it's often based on the lack of sensitive tests at all. We all believe the Monsanto and because toxicological studies are expensive, only Monsanto has a duty to publish them.
ValeriaT
3 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2012
It has been engineered to make it resistant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup
This herbicide is pretty toxic by itself, as the another recent study indicates. In this case not only the GMO corm can be dangerous by itself, but it even enables to elevate the concentrations of Roundup its residue in the final product. Normal maze would be killed with such concentrations of herbicide before it could be harvested. In addition, the components of Roundup herbicide (POEA) are toxic for tadpoles and they're probably co-responsible for recent decline of amphibians.
Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2012
The whole episode stinks of influence and manipulation. I will be interested to read Seralini"s statement. It doesn't take a genius to understand that GMO is a risky tech that is inadequately understood, developed or regulated --for precisely the reasons(among others) put forward above by ValeriaT.

Elsevier, mentioned at the end of the article, I take to be the French publishing house.

I haven't read the article itself, on the assumption that it was published "en Francais". Does anyone know of an English-language version available?

Doug_Huffman
4 / 5 (2) Oct 20, 2012
If it ain't falsifiable then it ain't science (K. Popper). A negative cannot in principle be proven but by examination of the entire universe of discussion, see The Black Swan, see Bayesian Inference. If it was easy then everyone could do it.
ValeriaT
not rated yet Oct 20, 2012
I will be interested to read Seralini"s statement.
IMO it's all just a twaddling. The doubters have no chance, than just to attempt for replication of the Seralini's experiments under even more thorough conditions. We are talking about science here and the science is based on experiments, not on political statements and analysis. It's the same situation, like with cold fusion: every scientist is doubting it and whining about cryptic A. Rossi - but no one is willing to replicate the well documented twenty years old experiments of F. Piantelli (who did present the very similar results, BTW).

So do we respect the scientific method or not?

At the moment, when some group of people is not willing to reproduce the findings of another people, then we just face the pathological skepticism (analogy of refusal to have look through Galilei telescope) - it's as simple, as it is.
A2G
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2012
I deal with various doctors in some of my consulting work. I have not met one who didn't think that what Monsanto is doing with GM food and round-up was anything but terrible. Several of them are really pissed about it all, wondering why something has not been done to reign them in and do some long term studies on the effects of the products in question.

I honestly have not had the time to give it my own review, but the doctors I know who are against it have, and they are pretty smart cookies.

As for me I will stick with organic until it is absolutely proven safe. It is my body, not monsanto's.
A2G
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2012
Try this easy simple test. Treat it as a science experiment. Eat only organic food for one month. Everything. You have to really stick to it though. Then after that month, go back and drink a coke, or eat some processed food with the additives.

Your body will tell you all you need to know.

This is what I did. My son got me started on it. I could not believe the different in taste. But if your system is already filled with this artificial crap your system has made adjustments and you get used to it.

Then most importantly. Evaluate how you feel after eliminating artificial food additives from your diet for a month.

Try it you will be hooked. No matter what any study says, I know what it has done for me. $$$$ can buy study results, but they can't buy the truth.
IronhorseA
5 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2012
US food mostly tastes like crap and Americans are acquiring strange illnesses and deformed shapes. That's enough to know.


That's just california food, they don't know how to cook anything other than 'health food'. ;P
Tweenk
not rated yet Oct 22, 2012
There were at least 24 long-term and multi-generational feeding studies of GM food (e.g. far more thorough than Seralini's, because they also look at the offspring of the test animals), and none of them suggest any health problems.

Links are disallowed here, but go to dx.doi.org and resolve this:
10.1016/j.fct.2011.11.048
Tweenk
not rated yet Oct 22, 2012
The doubters have no chance, than just to attempt for replication of the Seralini's experiments under even more thorough conditions.


Except the experiment was done many times before and results similar to Seralini's were NEVER observed - not to mention that HIS OWN OBSERVATIONS do not show the effect. It's present only in his own mind. Seralini severely misinterpreted his 'study' to say what he and his backers want - unless you believe that all of those previous 24 studies were corrupted by Monsanto and Seralini is the only white knight.

Personally I think it's far more plausible that Seralini was ideologically or financially motivated into falsifying his conclusions than that every other researcher was bribed by a single company. (NB, worldwide organic food sales dwarf Monsanto's total revenue roughly 5 to 1, $60 billion vs $12 billion.)
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2012
Just label the GM crap (and any processed food that contains it) and let the consumer decide.
Caliban
not rated yet Oct 22, 2012
Personally I think it's far more plausible that Seralini was ideologically or financially motivated into falsifying his conclusions than that every other researcher was bribed by a single company. (NB, worldwide organic food sales dwarf Monsanto's total revenue roughly 5 to 1, $60 billion vs $12 billion.)


@tweenk,

Care to cite a source for that income claim?